Mary Beth Eversole is slaying her food demons on YouTube, one ingredient substitution at a time.
When she was diagnosed with “seven allergies and a myriad of sensitivities,” she stood in front of her kitchen pantry with a sense of hopelessness.
“I just started to cry. It brought up a lot of things, because I’m a recovered anorexic,” Eversole said recently while sipping some green organic tea and taste-testing a raw, unbaked, gluten-free brownie at Unbakery & Juicery at 634 E. 63rd St.
Eversole, 34, was home to visit family. She graduated from Shawnee Mission West High School and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is an actress and voice teacher in Los Angeles, where she has landed roles on Lifetime’s “My Crazy Ex” and the short film “Me + You” (a Cannes Film Festival selection) and is a stand-in for “American Horror Story.”
But her most delicious role so far may be as the host of “Allergy Actress Cooking,” her year-old cooking show. In the weekly half-hour episodes, Eversole helps others who have food allergies figure out safe, clean-eating strategies. Episodes include “Superbowl Survival!” and “Kid-Friendly Allergy-Friendly Pizza.”
Eversole’s own diet — which adheres closely to what is popularly known as the paleo diet — eliminates meat, fish, shellfish, most dairy, soy, corn and wheat, which, to non-allergy sufferers may sound like a bare cupboard. Yet Eversole insists her recipes are hearty and delicious enough for even the pickiest eaters.
Although Eversole is not a professional cook or baker, she became “a master at substitutions,” she says. To prove her point, she hands me three allergy-free macarons. “I combined six recipes over the weekend. It took four tries, but I got it.”
Almond flour — a traditional base for French macarons — is naturally gluten-free. But she uses a special brand of powdered sugar with tapioca rather than cornstarch, an additive often used to keep the sugar from clumping. She used pure cane sugar for the batch, but coconut sugar can also be used. Instead of synthetic dyes, she uses natural food coloring made from beets.
When Eversole was finally diagnosed with food allergies 15 years ago, she began recalling how she had been self-eliminating foods as early as age 5. By the time she was 8, she quit eating meat because it made her stomach hurt. Her food eliminations eventually became so extreme, anorexia nearly killed her.
She was recovered and thriving until one day, when dining out with her husband and in-laws, she ordered a gluten-free pasta dish served at a national chain restaurant. It was a dish she had eaten before, but a few bites in, she realized something was different. The server told her the pasta dish contained no wheat — just semolina.
Semolina is a coarsely ground wheat flour.
Eversole had an anaphylactic reaction. Luckily, hers are not immediately life-threatening, though they are extremely debilitating: “Each food is different. Each reaction is different,” she says.
Still, she wound up in the emergency room. The restaurant manager offered her a free dessert. “I could have pursued suing them, but I’d rather educate them to keep this from happening again,” she says.
Eversole’s goal is to “bring joy to a diagnosis that can be debilitating,” and despite its lack of technical sophistication (she just held an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for a camera and sound equipment), early episodes of “Allergy Actress Cooking” are finding a global audience. Akyumen TV and TVtibi app will be distributing the show.
New episodes will feature what Eversole calls “healthy balance,” with recipes for all walks of dietary life, including diabetes, eating disorders, mood disorders, lifestyles like paleo and more.
Eversole stresses an allergy diagnosis doesn’t have to lead to social isolation.
“I want people to understand they are not alone,” she says, adding that, for instance, people can still socialize by throwing an allergy-friendly dinner party.
And when dining out with friends who claim to have food allergies to avoid certain foods, Eversole hopes they’ll think about the effect of their actions on true allergy sufferers.
“Don’t say you have a food allergy if you don’t because in the end, that only makes it difficult and even more dangerous for those who do,” she says. “My diet is not a fad. It has to be a lifestyle for me because it is my health.”
Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor and Chow Town’s blog curator. Reach her on Twitter at @kcstarfood and @chowtownkc or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mint Macarons with Avocado Chocolate Mousse
Makes: 24 macarons
1/4-inch round cake tip (#1A Wilton Brand)
Disposable or reusable 16-inch pastry bag
Flour sifter or fine mesh sieve
Stand mixer with whisk attachment
4 baking sheets
3 silicone baking mats OR two sheets of parchment paper per baking sheet
Convection oven setting (speed bake)
High-speed blender or food processor
For the macarons:
1 3/4 cups corn-free powdered sugar (I use Wholesome brand)
1 cup almond flour
3 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of pink Himalayan salt
1/4 cup superfine white or coconut sugar (if using coconut sugar, grind in spice grinder to make superfine)
2-3 drops of corn-free green food coloring (I use Color Garden)
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
For the Avocado Chocolate Mousse:
1 1/2 cups dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips)
6 ripe avocados
3/4 -1 1/2 cups cashew milk
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/8 teaspoon salt
2-3 teaspoons local honey or sweetener of choice
To make macarons: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees on the convection (speed bake) setting. Line baking sheets with silicone mats or two sheets of parchment paper per baking sheet.
Combine powdered sugar and almond flour in a bowl and whisk until well mixed.
Sift the sugar/flour mixture through the sifter or fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Press through with a spatula if needed so it comes out superfine. Set aside.
In a stand mixer, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt on medium speed until soft peaks form (it will look frothy and takes about 30 seconds to 1 minute).
Add the superfine sugar and beat on high speed until you reach stiff peaks. (It will turn white, look shiny, and when you pull the whisk beater up, it will stick to the whisk). Takes 4-5 minutes.
Transfer egg whites to bowl with the flour and then fold gently. Turn bowl 1/4 turn with each stir. DO NOT OVERFOLD.
When the mixture is about half folded, i.e. the flour is mixed with the egg whites but you can still see the flour, add food coloring and mint extract. Continue to fold until the batter is smooth and falls of the spatula in a thick ribbon. No longer than 2-3 minutes folding!
Transfer the batter to a pastry bag with a 1/4 -inch tip. Hold vertically above baking sheet. Pipe 1 1/4 -inch circles. Leave an inch between each macaron. Tap sheets against the counter firmly to release the air bubbles.
Let sit at room temperature until the tops of the macarons are no longer sticky to the touch. It can take from 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on humidity levels.
While macarons are setting, make the avocado chocolate mousse.
To make avocado mousse: Melt the chocolate chips on the stove in a double boiler or in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring to check consistency.
Combine all mousse ingredients with melted chocolate chips in food processor. Process until smooth. Refrigerate until macarons are baked and cooled.
To bake the macarons: Bake the macarons until the cookies are shiny and there is a “foot” around the base of the cookie. Between 13-18 minutes, depending on your oven.
Transfer parchment sheet with cookies on it over to a cooling rack and cool completely (about 10 minutes)
Peel macarons off of parchment paper. Put a thin layer of avocado mousse between two cookies to create a finished macaron.
Leftover mousse can be put in other desserts or eaten alone. Refrigerate mousse and macarons for up to 3 days.
Per serving (2 macarons with 1/2 tablespoon mousse): 166 calories (31 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 1 milligram cholesterol, 26 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 39 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.